Two scenes keep nudging their way back into my mind.
The first came from the play The Black Watch (about soldiers who went on a tour of duty in Iraq). There was a scene when the mail from home was delivered. The men were scattered around the stage, each lost in that private moment, reading a message from someone they loved. And their hands began to move, silently miming the contents of the letter. The shape of a womanís pregnant belly, tears falling, a baby being rockedÖ In the middle of a play filled with action and drama it was incredibly powerful and moving.
The second was in a documentary about women working in Maquiladoras in Tijuana, Mexico. Maquiladoras are foreign-owned assembly plants where companies import machinery and materials duty free and export finished products around the world. For around US$6 a day women in these factories assemble parts for everything from televisions and batteries to pantyhose, IV tubes, and toys.
"We are just objects, objects of labour," one of the women said.
The film deeply shocked and upset me. Yes, I was already aware that people worked in these factories for such low wages, and in appalling conditions. But I hadnít comprehended the devastating impact on the whole community. Images of chemical waste from the factories rushing down the streets where children were playing, polluted streams, kids with sores and other health problems from the pollution, stories of children born with birth defects, brought home that the situation was more horrible than I had imagined.
Iím not sure if this was the last scene in the film, but it is certainly the image that was left in my mind: the women standing in a row outside near one of the factories, their hands miming the action they performed over and over on the assembly line.
Even though my head wanted to block out the words I was hearing, I couldnít help being moved by the silent language of hands.